And the tradition continues......
From humble beginnings in the streets of Williamstown, recognized by Proclamation and Letters Patent by Francis Gore, Lieutenant Governor in 1808, to the present site in 1812, the Williamstown Fair continues to be the annual gathering place for thousands of area residents of our rural community, as well as many visitors from afar.
The Williamstown Fairgrounds, a beautiful site featuring majestic pine trees and beautiful heritage style buildings, set in the center of the historic Village of Williamstown, provides the ideal setting for "Canada's Oldest Annual Fair".
Having continually focused on exhibits, programs, competitions and entertainment representing the rural agricultural way of life, the St. Lawrence Valley Agricultural Society annually presents a Fair which has a reputation for being "a heritage fair with a family friendly atmosphere".
The strength of the Fair has always been the dedication of the volunteer Board of Directors of the Society and the many volunteers, from the community, who assist with the event every year.
While agriculture has seen many changes over the years and life in general has become somewhat busier, the underlying strengths of the rural community can be readily witnessed at Fair time, in the displays, competitions and gatherings of families and friends, in this traditional setting.
With thanks to all who worked for more than 200 years to keep this great tradition alive,
....into our third century we go!
1854 The officers of the Glengarry Agricultural Society were President: Colonel Cattanach, 1 st Vice-President: Colonel Duncan McDonell, 2nd Vice-President: D. A. MacPherson, Esq., Treasurer: Alexander McDonell, Esq., Secretary: Colonel Chisholm.
1855 The Membership fee was 5 shillings.
1875 An Annual report showed a profit of $99.32.
1878 The Financial Statement for the Glengarry Exhibition showed a revenue of $1,130.00.
1892 The Program included Caledonian Games and Lacrosse match and Pipe & Band Competition. Classes included: Throwing 56 lb weight, and throwing 12 lb hammer. There was a Scotch reel for gentlemen over 50 years of age, a swimming match starting at bridge and a Running Horse Race with a purse of $15.00
1899 Gate receipts amounted to about $380.00
1904 Township Agricultural Society was organized combining the Charlottenburgh and Lancaster Agricultural Society in a fair at Williamstown.
1907 The name of the new Society became St Lawrence Valley Agricultural Society, and it remains as such today. A new show hall was constructed at a cost of $650.00.
1908 The SLVAS supported legislation to bring forth more money in Government Grants. The Fair sponsored a marathon race featuring the famous Canadian long distance runner, Tom Longboat.
1912 Johnson Raymond of Williamstown was given the contract to ready the grounds at a cost of $47.50.
1913 Horse Barn was built costing $100.00.
1914 Because of the war, judges were not sent from the Department of Agriculture and the Government Grant was reduced by half. “No cars allowed on the race track”. Considering the date, parking was a problem even then. The fair was held on Tuesday and Wednesday because the CNR line could bring folks from Cornwall and Alexandria on that day and return them at night.
1915 The first covered skating rink in Williamstown was operated on the grounds in the old show hall. The cattle barns cost $475.00
1916 The Society offered the Government the use of the grounds and hall for the training of the troops.
1921 Gate prices were raised to $.35 for adults.
1924 A gentleman was paid $.25 per hour to arrange and repair the cattle and horse rings.1925 Admission was raised to $.50.
1927 The Women’s Institute of Williamstown revamped the ladies prize list. Attendance was reported at 2000.1928 The Board numbered all tickets and drew for a trip to Toronto to the Royal Winter fair.
1930 The first meals in the dining hall were served.
1933 The McArthur trophy was presented for the best Women’s Institute Display. Men were still in charge of the Ladies’ Division.
1935 Ladies were finally accepted on the Board. They were given charge of the Ladies Fancy Work and Cooking Classes. A new roof and floor was put in the exhibition hall at a cost of $325.00.
1937 A loudspeaker system, and a Hydro contract for lights in the Hall was procured.
1942 Cattle shows were set up in affiliation with the County Ayrshire and Holstein Clubs.
1945 Prime Minister Wm. Lyon MacKenzie King was the guest speaker at the Opening Ceremonies.
1946 The Department of Agriculture constructed a base and flagpole on the grounds in honour of over 100 years of the Williamstown Fair. Attendance was reported as 6000.
1953 A midway was installed as a feature attraction.
1954 The office was wired for lights. The Cheese Show was added as a Commercial feature.
1956 The midway failed to show up!
1958 A poultry and hay barn was erected and the old grandstand was dismantled.1960 Plans were made to build a new dining facility.
1961 A Jersey Class was added to the Prize List. Honey was a new Commercial feature. Gates were put on the entrance to the grounds.1962 150th Anniversary. A well was drilled on the grounds.
1963 The membership fee was increased to $2.00. A new septic tank and tile bed was installed.
1964 The Historical Sites Board unveiled a plaque commemorating “Ontario’s Oldest Fair”.1965 Bleachers and a new poultry display area were constructed. The new Maple Leaf flag was raised on Fair Day. Doctor Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottawa performed the opening ceremonies. 1966 Miss Dominion of Canada officiated. New washrooms were completed.
1967 “Centennial Year” – ladies appeared in costume.1969 New well was drilled, horse and cattle rings were improved and a new display area for flowers and vegetables was made.
1970 Part of the grounds were tile drained.1972 First female secretary/treasurer Ruth D. Mowat took over from Robert McDonell. Four cattle barns each 96’ X 16’ were erected.
1973 The English and Harness Division Horse show became a recognized show. A Pure Maple Products Class was added to the Prize List.
1974 Gate Admission was raised to $2.00 for adults and children under 12 were free.
1975 Installed 6,000 feet of plastic tile drain.
1978 Great Raisin River Footrace began.
1982 Petting Zoo introduced.
1984 Williamstown Bi-Centennial. All fair ribbons sported Canoe Logo.
1985 Sunday Highland Dance Competition started.
1987 Meeting Place (licensed establishment) was opened with proceeds going to a special building fund. Celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Williamstown Fair – period costumes
1989 First corn roast.
1990 New Constitution was prepared.
1992 Construction of Centre Stage designed by Jay Woollven.1994 Hosted the “Great Canadian Sign Affair Convention”. Many new signs were donated to the fair grounds. Admission decreased to $5.00.
1995 Interior of Exhibit Hall was painted.1996 Agricultural Awareness Octagonal Building was erected and named the Sir John Johnson Building. The Ladies’ Division became known as the Home & Garden Division. Federal Agriculture Minister, Ralph Goodale opened the fair. Photo & Art Displays at Nor’Westers & Loyalist Museum
1997 Beach Volleyball new attraction. OPP Shave-Off for Cancer began. Heat & humidity were unbearable. Hay bale decorating contest began1998 Industry Minister John Manley opened the fair. Ice Storm of ’98 remembered. First Ecumenical service was held.
1999 Lori Dupuis, 1998 Nagano Silver Medallist opened the fair. Cheryl Wightman becomes the first female president of the Society.2000 July 1st Old Fashioned Barn Raising of 50' X 100' post & beam barn to be meeting place/dining hall. New garden displays by local horticultural groups.
2001 Society inducted into Glengarry Agriculture Hall of Fame. Designated “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”. CJOH News Director Max Keeping opened the fair.2002 “Richard Codrington, British Deputy High Commisioner opened the fair. Canada Post issued a Cancellation stamp in honour of “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”. A Queen’s Jubilee Award was presented to Clarence Robertson on behalf of the Fair.
2003 Max Keeping, CJOH News Director, opened the fair. New well drilled. 100th anniversary celebrations—Kraft.2004 Complete upgrade of ladies’ washroom. Website created. Gate admission increased to $7.00. New, revised constitution.
2005 Loyalist weekend—Hosted Military ball. Complete upgrade men’s washroom. New Firemen’s booth. Year of the Veteran opening ceremonies. New horse ring. Pine stage tented.2006 New Minor Hockey Booth, Western judges booth and major electrical upgrade.
2007 Hosted R.C.M.P. Musical Ride. Complete update and 100th anniversary of Exhibit Hall. Major electrical upgrade.2008 Tom Longboat 100th Anniversary run. New showcase for Maple Division. New office / annex attached to 101 year old Exhibit Hall. Stone gates refurbished. New stone flowerbed – gully. SEVEC students.
2009 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $60,000 to upgrade Centre Stage. Honoured “Big Rory McLennan” – Glengarry sports hero. South parking lot surveyed. Stone Gates – landscaped by Kirsty MacLeod & Williamstown Green Thumbs. Williamstown Fair Board awarded an “Excellence in Agriculture Award” by the Township of South Glengarry.
2010 New Centre Stage, Land clearing and tile draining.
2011 200th Edition of the Williamstown Fair; hosted the International Cockshutt Summer Show; Royal Canadian Legion (Lancaster) erected 2 new flag poles at the Stone Gates on John Street; 1st Heritage Carriage Drive with Historical cutters & sleighs in the Meeting Place and a Farmer's Market in the Sir John Johnson Building; new stone Main Gates on Warren Street; gate admission was raised to $10 daily and a $20 for a weekend pass; participated in the 1812 Reenactment weekend; new entrance off the Johnson Road.
2012 BiCentennial Celebrations. Second Heritage Carriage Drive with antique agricultural machinery on display and a farmers market. Rare breeds tent. New sugar shanty. New horse judging booth for English ring. Heritage Homecoming Weekend featuring a heritage ball, heritage parade and family picnic with games.